Congress' Keystone Push Not in the National Interest

Congress' Keystone Push Not in the National Interest
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The new GOP leadership in Congress says it wants to make progress, but it’s starting out by trying to pass a bill they know the president will veto -- hardly a recipe for moving forward.

We already know more than enough to Just Say No to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. And the president should veto any congressional bill approving it. Then, he should take the next step and reject the pipeline outright.

Because it would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands oil over decades, it would significantly worsen climate change. It would threaten jobs and communities in our country with spills. And every day just adds to the evidence that the proposed pipeline is not in the national interest.

It’s become impossible to credibly argue that Keystone XL will not expand tar sands production. Other pipelines proposed are blocked by strong opposition in Canada and shipping tar sands by rail to the Gulf Coast has proven too expensive. That’s why tar sands producers cancelled 400,000 barrels per day in tar sands expansion projects before the recent drop in oil prices.

Instead we should be focusing on what protects our communities, what will lower energy costs, and what kind of world we will leave to future generations. Turning to the dirtiest fuel on the planet is the wrong way to go.

But backers in Congress argue the proposed Keystone XL project would create new jobs and promote energy independence. We heard that Thursday when a Senate committee voted to approve the pipeline project and likely will hear more as the House takes up a Keystone XL approval bill on Friday. Let’s review the facts.

It won’t create many jobs. The company wanting to build the pipeline, TransCanada, told the U.S. State Department that the project would create 35 permanent jobs in our country. That’s only about as many as would be employed at a new McDonald’s in North Dakota -- where the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Hoeven, is from.

The project would create 1,950 temporary jobs during a two-year construction phase of the pipeline, but then they would be gone. Instead, our country could create many more manufacturing and construction jobs building clean energy wind and solar systems, like the more than 18,000 clean energy jobs announced in just the third quarter of 2014.

The Keystone XL pipeline would trigger a boom in the development of Canadian tar sands oil and that would be a climate disaster. From the wellhead to tailpipe, tar sands crude generates 17 percent more carbon pollution than producing, processing and burning conventional crude oil. President Obama has said his decision to approve the pipeline project depends on whether it would significantly worsen carbon pollution. Clearly, it would. In fact, over the project’s 50-year lifetime it would add the equivalent of the carbon pollution from almost 6 million cars. That’s nearly as many cars as on the roadways in Pennsylvania in 2012.

The Keystone XL project, in particular, threatens America’s heartland. Crossing Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the pipeline would pass within a mile of more than 3,000 drinking water and irrigation wells. It also would cross more than 1,000 rivers, lakes and streams. That poses a major risk because pipeline spills are not occasional occurrences. There were nearly 6,000 spills and other serious incidents from 1994 to late 2014. A tar sands crude spill, which has proven far more difficult to clean up, as seen in Kalamazoo, Michigan, would be all the more dangerous.

The pipeline won’t make us more energy secure. Most Canadian tar sands crude would be refined and shipped overseas, according to the State Department. Building the pipeline also would deepen our reliance of fossil fuels that keeps us hostage to unpredictable global forces.

Finally, new research published this week in the journal Nature warns that, in order to avoid catastrophic global climate change, vast amounts of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground, including nearly all of Canada’s tar sands. So, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be an enormous step in the wrong direction.

Congress shouldn’t play pipeline politics with our children’s future.

Danielle Droitsch is director of the Canada Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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